Anita Page is an author who’s new to me, but I like what I see. I hope you will too!
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Anita: I’ve been writing short stories for many years and also worked in journalism. I only began writing crime fiction, and to seriously think about writing a novel, after I retired from teaching five or six years ago.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Anita: I don’t know that I see success as a place where you can put down roots. It’s more a fleeting moment. When the writing goes well, I feel successful. And then there are the days it doesn’t. It’s gratifying to have your work published, but you still have to sit down at the computer each day and face the terrifying task of writing fiction.
PJ: So true! Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Anita: Years ago, out of college, writing was just you and your typewriter and your Wite-Out. I wasn’t prepared for how connected the writing life can be now. Largely this is because of the Internet, but also because of the supportive nature of the mystery writing community. I’m very grateful for the friends I’ve made through Sisters in Crime, including my blogmates at Women of Mystery, MWA, and online groups like the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Anita: My focus right now is the WIP. I’m usually at the computer by five-thirty a.m. I shoot for four or five hours, though sometimes the gears get squeaky sooner.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Anita: After I pitched my first book-length manuscript to a very nice agent at Crime Bake, she said, gently, that most first books don’t get published. I thought: Well, she hasn’t read mine. This is to give you an idea of how clueless I was. That first book never sold, and with good reason. I went on to write Damned If You Don’t, and then spent close to a year trying to find an agent. Eventually I decided to submit to a small publisher. I sent the manuscript to L&L Dreamspell because they’d published an anthology in which I had a short story. They accepted the manuscript fairly quickly. It was about a year from acceptance to publication.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Anita: The agent search, which was almost as much fun as root canal, had been going on for months when a good friend was picked up by a top agent who got him a multi-book contract with a major publisher. Part of the deal was that he had to hand in a manuscript a year. At around the same time, another friend was dropped by her publisher because her books hadn’t sold enough copies.
These events made me question whether I wanted the kind of pressure that’s guaranteed if you sign with one of the Big Six. At that point I stopped querying agents and sent the manuscript to L&L.
Does that mean I’d turn down an offer on the new book for a six-figure contract from a major publisher—some of whom are now pressuring writers for two books a year? I think I know the answer to that, but of course the hypothetical is not the same as being there. I do know that I’m happy with the choice I made.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Anita: Here are my personal rules for hanging onto my sanity. Put the writing first; develop a tolerance for weeds and dust; no Internet, including email, before three p.m. Do I follow these rules religiously? Take a guess.
PJ: (smile). What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Anita: The following are in the running: the email from Lisa Smith at L&L Dreamspell offering me a contract for Damned If You Don’t; winning a Derringer award in 2010 for my short story “‘Twas the Night;” the day I finished the final draft of DIYD and realized I’d actually written a book. My big fear when I was working on the manuscript was that I’d be hit by a bus before I finished.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Anita: Not too long ago I did a library reading in the Catskill Mountain town where we lived for nine years, and which inspired Laurel Pond, the town where Damned If You Don’t is set. That evening felt like a homecoming, especially when old friends turned up. I’d used the library as a setting in the book—my protagonist Hannah Fox teaches a summer school class there—so in addition to feeling that I’d connected with my past, I also had the sense (spooky music here) that I’d stepped into Hannah’s life.
PJ: That’s great! With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Anita: If you’ll forgive the BSP, here’s a quote from the Gumshoe Review:
“Page’s characters come alive with the everyday concerns, fears, and challenges of real people, the sort of challenges that most of us deal with on a regular basis. The situations and scenes that Page draws are believable and down-to-earth, sometimes gut-wrenchingly familiar. From Hannah’s involvement at a help center for battered and at-risk women, to the shady, graft-ridden politics of small town America, it all rings true.”
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Anita: I’ve learned to write—and continue to learn—by reading good writers. Early on, when I was struggling to bring the characters to life without getting bogged down in detail, I began re-reading Donna Leon. I’d read her books the first time for pleasure, but this time I was reading for the bones—i.e., trying to figure out how she did it. I remember being struck by the deft way she handled a scene in which Brunetti meets a friend at a café. To paraphrase advice an agent once gave me: She didn’t give the reader directions on how to eat a meal.
Damned If You Don’t (L&L Dreamspell) is my debut crime novel.
I’ve had short stories published in the following anthologies:
Murder New York Style (L&L Dreamspell)
The Prosecution Rests (Little, Brown)
The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press)
Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices (L&L Dreamspell)
I’ve had short stories published in a number of webzines, including Beat to a Pulpand Mysterical-e. There are links to some of the stories at anitapagewriter.blogspot.com.
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title.
Damned If You Don’t (L&L Dreamspell), set in the Catskill Mountains, features community activist Hannah Fox, a daughter of sixties radicals, who, together with the intrepid Women of Action, battles a fraudulent eminent domain scheme that threatens a friend’s land. When the scheme ends in murder, and her friend becomes a suspect, Hannah is drawn into the police investigation—and into a relationship with the lead investigator that complicates her already shaky marriage. As she probes the victim’s past, Hannah comes to suspect the murder was a heroic act, even when it’s clear she may be the killer’s next victim.
Where can we buy it?
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Anita: The victim in my first (unpublished) book was loosely inspired by someone I know casually and don’t see very often. One day I was in the supermarket and saw him walking toward me. I swear my jaw dropped. My first thought: But he’s supposed to be dead! So that’s my dark secret—the line between book world and the real world sometimes gets blurred.
Thanks so much Anita for sharing with us. Readers, Damned if you Don’t is on my TBR pile. Want to add it to yours?